Seat belt campaign in full swing

Law enforcement officials aim to save lives

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Click It or Ticket campaign is back in action, and local law enforcement are patrolling the streets looking for unbuckled drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says if all vehicle occupants ages 5 and older had worn seat belts, more than 3,000 lives could have been saved in 2010.

Officers say the goal isn't to write tickets for not wearing a seat belt, but to encourage people to buckle up.

"Everybody thinks it's just a money-making thing for the state of Florida. It's not," said Sgt. Donald Sutherland, of the Clay County Sheriff's Office. "It's so I don't have to knock on a door at 2 o'clock in the morning and tell them their loved one got ejected from a vehicle and they're not going -- now they need to make funeral arrangements."

The Click It or Ticket campaign lasts through Sunday, but law enforcement officials encourage everyone to wear their seat belts all the time. Officers want to remind people it's not just drivers but also passengers who have to wear them.

"You have small children ejected from vehicles because the parents don't look back to make sure their child is buckled up or in a child seat," Sutherland said.

Statistics show that 77percent of all ejected passengers in a crash die; 62 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds killed in rural crashes at night were unbuckled; and seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60 percent in SUVs and trucks.

If those statistics don't inspire you to wear your seat belt, the price of a ticket might.

"A citation can be issued. Now the fines will vary depending on the county you're in, but the fines range from $99 to $116," said Sgt. Dylan Bryan, of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Officers say you can help protect your friends and family when you lead by example and remind others to buckle up. Statistics show that nine out of 10 people fasten their seat belt when they are simply asked to do so.

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